Melissa Was One

The Australian Signals Directorate of the Australian Cyber Security Centre released its Annual Cyber Threat Report on 4 November 2022. The key takeaway's being a cybercrime reported every 7 minutes on average; 76,000 cybercrimes reported in the past 12 months, an increase of 13% compared to the previous financial year, and ALL sectors of the Australian economy impacted by ransomware incidents. 76,000 cybercrimes.


The world has changed. The world continues to change each day as technology becomes more entrenched in the lives of every Australian. It powers our critical infrastructure, supports our economy, and enriches our health system. It makes our lives easier and more enjoyable, bringing digital efficiency, quite literally, to everything we do. It empowers our frontline and defence capabilities, which depend on a digital advantage against those looking to harm us. Technology empowers everyone, everywhere. Technology truly is the tall poppy. Our digital world is now our most valuable asset. Something so fundamentally crucial to every facet of our lives. Any investment like this, so overwhelmingly valuable, rich with opportunity, and filled with limitless, unrestricted resources, would (if physical) be locked away under the guard of armed forces. But this asset, a $5.2 Trillion technology industry, is in your pocket or on your wrist.

9,000 AND $9,000,000.00

Today, rather than criminals going to the effort of confronting you in plain sight and the potential view of our police during a violent, stressful armed robbery to steal what’s in your pocket - the new age of digital and cyber criminals is… Well, we don’t know. But we can assume they are at a safe location, calm, offered ultimate privacy and protection from view, and not rushed or restricted by time. At the same time, they also attack and take what’s in your pocket—leaving you with a small pane of glass and aluminium. In Australia (2022), robberies decreased by 3% from the previous year, down to 9,140 incidents, with property crime still costing the economy an astonishing $9 million per year. $173,076 per week taken away from vulnerable community members who require it to survive, as the country faces economic uncertainty and fiscal stress. 9,000 robberies. $9 million impact.

67,000 AND $42,000,000,000.00

Also, in 2022 - 67,500 Australians were subject to a cyber security attack at an economic cost of $42 BILLION per year. $807 MILLON every week. $115 MILLION every day. $5 MILLION every hour. AND $100,000 since you started reading this. Just in Australia. 726 Security Controls seemed like a substantial number. But what about the number depicting the actual economic cost of cybercrime in Australia? $42,000,000,000.00. Now that’s a big number. These big numbers are daunting. And frankly, a little over the top. They prove a point and put a dollar value on the costs of cybercrime in Australia so we can contextualise the problem and the importance of that smaller number of 726 Security Controls. But the number that matters the most is ONE.


Cybercrime is Australia’s fourth most likely crime, only outdone by minor drug possession, traffic offences, and shop stealing. Over 5,000 individual cyber-attacks (with multiple victims each) occur each month. But the number is still ONE. We rejoice in how technology is bettering our lives (it is) and how badly we need it (we do), and how our frontline protectors require it to keep us safe (they do). But let’s explore just ONE un-dramatised, very real, everyday incident where our frontline protectors would use this technology. To be clear, we are not talking about our Major Crime detectives, our nation’s spies at ASIO, or undercover police keeping children safe from exploitation. We are about to discuss a uniformed police officer intercepting a car pulling into a driveway on an ordinary suburb street.

The officer introduced himself to the driver. She was Melissa, a 28-year-old with a baby boy in her back seat. The officer politely told Melissa she didn’t have her headlights switched on, assured her she wasn’t in trouble and asked to see her driver’s licence. Melissa was reluctant and nervous but gave it to the officer as compelled. The licence, which showed Melissa’s interstate address, checked out and was current. Melissa was free to visit whoever lived in the house where she had just arrived. The officer returned to his car and submitted his incident report containing the details of the traffic stop. Melissa walked into her house with the little boy. And eventually, the officer drove away, and everyone went about their day. If you were wondering why Melissa was so nervous, it wasn’t about her licence status. Melissa had fled her interstate home from domestic violence over six months ago. Melissa refused to update her licence address, fearing she would be killed if her ex-partner ever found her again or where she was living.

A few months on, the police force (who intercepted Melissa) was the victim of a cyber-attack, and thousands of records were stolen. Again, ‘thousands’ is a significant number. But we are talking about ONE. The records and civilian identities start appearing on the Dark Net, sold by cybercriminals to other criminals looking to exploit identity crime, fraud, or other limitless purposes. Of all the affected civilians, Melissa is ONE.

When told by the authorities, Melissa, unlike the others, wasn’t worried about fraud or her credit rating; Melissa was concerned about her location becoming known. But Melissa took immediate comfort, as she had decided not to update her licence address. No one, not even the transport department, had her address, and she provided it to no one. There was no record of it anywhere. Melissa was safe, with no record of that address anywhere. But sadly, there was ONE.

Remembering the officer who kindly helped Melissa with her car’s headlights a month ago went back to his patrol car and recorded the traffic stop, as he should. The officer included Melissa’s driver’s licence details, details of the vehicle, and the address where Melissa was stopped, a house she had just arrived. The officer followed the procedures, and that information was entered into his agency’s Records Management System. Of all the big numbers: 67,500 cyber-attacks & $43 Billion in damages each year, and the thousands of police records stolen - Melissa was just ONE, sitting in her home, seemingly safe after taking measures to protect herself from her violent ex-partner who had threatened to kill her, causing her to flee with her baby interstate.

Melissa is now subject to a very real, grave, and utterly unknown risk of what she knew could likely result in her murder by a man who had made multiple attempts to locate her unsuccessfully. But after Melissa made the mistake of not turning on her headlights as kindly warned by the officer who carried out his duties flawlessly - her new home and the safe place that was now in the hands of the internet, for anyone to access. Melissa is the ONE victim of cybercrime that overshadows all the statistics, figures, and money used to quantify the impact of cybercrime on our community.

Optus may have lost over 9,000,000 records. But Melissa lost her life. And a baby boy lost his mum.

Yes. We do impliment 726 Security Controls for one.